RIDGECREST – Trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources heard
reports of health and progress from divisional vice presidents during their
semiannual meeting on Sept. 12-13 at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in
North Carolina. A recommendation on the future of operations at Glorieta
Conference Center in New Mexico highlighted reports of new initiatives underway
to strengthen the organization during a climate of challenging economic
The impact of LifeWay employee-led mission trips was the focus of Tom Hellams,
vice president of executive relations.
“Just recently, the 100th mission trip was completed with 16 employees going to
Ecuador to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Hellams noted. “We celebrate the
fact that for the last 14 years, we’ve recorded more than 116,000 professions
of faith. The Lord has blessed this effort in manifold ways.”
Since the first team went to Kenya in 1997, LifeWay’s mission trips have
included 1,329 volunteers and started 256 churches.
Finance & business services
Jerry Rhyne, vice president of the finance and business services division and
LifeWay’s chief financial officer, said that a bleak economic outlook continues
to impact business practices as LifeWay approaches 2012.
Rhyne brought a proposal to trustees – which was passed after open discussion –
to reduce operations at Glorieta Conference Center, effective Nov. 1, 2011, to
a facility offering only summer events for student groups.
Significant changes in church practices, continued rising fuel and utility
costs, Glorieta’s remote location, an aging infrastructure, a volatile economy,
and changes in state convention structures have combined to make financial
viability increasingly difficult at Glorieta, Rhyne said.
“As a matter of fiscal stewardship, LifeWay must control costs and manage
resources in order to provide biblical solutions for life to individuals and
churches in the most effective way,” Rhyne said.
Rhyne asked trustees to approve a new strategy for Glorieta which would include
Glorieta becoming a summer-only facility for student groups, effective Nov. 1,
2011. In 2012, Centrifuge Camps and Collegiate Week will continue as usual.
Additionally, trustees approved pursuing viable options for the disposition of
the property including, but not limited to, sales to or alliances with SBC
entities, state conventions and other ministries. Rhyne pointed out that
LifeWay bylaws require trustee approval before any sale of all or part of
As a summer-only facility, Glorieta will reduce its staff from 23 to seven
employees. During summer operations, the regular summer workforce will continue
to be aided by summer staffers and volunteers. The LifeWay Christian Store on
location will also cease operation, effective Nov. 1, 2011.
“Making a decision about Glorieta is difficult based on Glorieta’s rich
heritage and spiritual legacy, but it’s a necessary decision for more
responsible stewardship,” Rhyne said.
For a complete statement on the Glorieta action, visit GlorietaConferenceCenter.org/Statement.
Above and beyond the economic environment, Rhyne reported that LifeWay also
faces challenges in areas related to employee medical insurance, budgeted
salary increases, consumer credit and debit card costs, cyber insurance, the
increasing cost of meeting customer expectations, and changes in church
“These challenges are representative of the environment in which we find
ourselves,” Rhyne said. “We must continue to remind ourselves that LifeWay is a
ministry funded by a business model. Therefore, as church practices and the
market change, we must also be prepared to change. This may mean adjusting the
way we do certain things, or stop doing some things.”
Despite the tough economy, LifeWay’s investment earnings on reserves funds and
retirement fund assets surpassed every benchmark due to active management of
Overall, several issues serve as potential risks to LifeWay’s performance,
Rhyne said, including growing revenues in an uncertain economy, distraction of
continued federal government budget negotiations/presidential election cycle,
forecasting demand in the church market, uncertainty in health care cost
trends, and volatility in energy costs.
On the upside, the movie “Courageous,” the new James study by Beth Moore, the
growth of digital products, the inclusion of World Changers in LifeWay’s
ministry operation and the growth and success of operations at the Ridgecrest
Conference Center “give us great hope and encouragement for 2012,” Rhyne said.
Rhyne reported that LifeWay will wrap up 2011 slightly below budgeted
expectations and has a budget for 2012 of almost $498 million.
LifeWay Christian Stores
Mark Scott, vice president of the retail division, shared with trustees his
optimism for LifeWay Christian Stores during a volatile economy.
“Going through a storm is always difficult,” Scott said. “But we are
successfully navigating through the storm and we are very excited about the
opportunities for LifeWay Christian Stores.”
Despite challenging times in the retail market area, “marketplace opportunities
continue to open up for us,” Scott reported, noting that LifeWay already is
positioned as a market leader in multichannel options for consumers and
“We know that digital channels are growing,” he said. “But we also know our
customers are very engaged in brick-and-mortar stores. We are well-positioned
to engage in the multichannel options.”
Scott said the retail division is experiencing solid results in operations and
seeing ministry expansion on multiple fronts in addition to deploying
innovative practices to engage new audiences.
Research & ministry development
Research and ministry development is a division that centers around one main
theme: knowledge-based insights, said Ed Stetzer, vice president of the
division. But that theme is rooted in God’s mission and to make His name known,
Stetzer reported on the work of his division, which has grown to encompass four
departments: research, ministry development, innovation and communications.
LifeWay Research continues to release relevant insights on the church and culture
and continues to develop “bigger messages” for LifeWay, such as the
Transformational Discipleship project, which will provide insight for the
church in how people are making disciples.
“Through this study, we are helping LifeWay as a whole to know, which will help
us know what to do,” Stetzer said.
Through the Transformational Small Communities studies, LifeWay Research is
studying what successful small groups look like, Stetzer said. By doing this, “we
want people to ask, ‘Where do we go to find out about church?’ and we want them
to come to LifeWay.”
“We’re continuously encouraged that people are asking the question: ‘What does
LifeWay think?’” said Stetzer, citing as example that day’s edition of USA
Today quoting LifeWay Research.
Ministry Development leads a number of collaborative, cross-divisional teams to
spearhead new initiatives, Stetzer reported.
“These initiatives have contributed to two major results,” he said. “We are
becoming the knowledge leader that churches will turn to for understanding
trends in culture and being informed of what God is doing in the church today.
Secondly, we are working to position LifeWay as the ‘go-to’ resource provider
to other denominations, the church planting culture and all of evangelicalism.”
Innovation, a new corporate strategy at LifeWay, was formed to create a culture
of collaborative development of new ideas.
“We’re involving people at every level from every area of LifeWay and
leveraging them to help encourage all employees to share their best ideas,”
Stetzer explained. “Through this, we’re looking at how we can ingrain
innovation into the very DNA of our organization through how we train and lead
Communications, recently moved into Stetzer’s division, has reached 786 media
outlets (both traditional and social) and has offered public relations and
media support for a number of areas within LifeWay.
“Every department in the research and ministry development division centers
around a theme focused on knowledge-based insights,” Stetzer added. “We are
part of a conversation. As we enter into that conversation, as we create some
of the conversation, our goal is to spend a lot more time bringing attention to
God’s glory and His mission.”
Louis Hanks, acting vice president of church resources, presented an overview
of innovative and emerging resources under the banner Church Resources: Helping
Churches Help People.
“Our curriculum helps people study and apply God’s Word,” Hanks said. “Our goal
is to help churches meet the needs of people from birth to heaven. LifeWay’s
strategy includes devotionals for all ages that help people to connect with God
daily.” Hanks also highlighted a new curriculum line for children titled “Panoroma,
The Big Picture of God’s Story,” that will be available in the fall of 2012.
Hanks said that the church resources division offers many magazines for each
stage of life that help people live out their faith practically day by day. A
new magazine for Boomers is slated to premier next fall.
LifeWay Men has partnered with some great friends and sports legends, he said,
adding his excitement over the push to help men pursue godly leadership in the
home and marketplace.
“‘Courageous’ is a heartstopper,” Hanks said. “We have a four-week Bible study
available now. Pray that churches rally around this, and pray for those who go
Hanks also reported continued growth in the LifeWay Women area. Beth Moore’s
new Bible study, “James — Mercy Triumphs,” is due to hit the shelves Nov. 1.
“Beth’s new Bible study is one of most important releases this year,” Hanks
said. “Join us in praying that it is received by the churches and that the
message the ladies hear is what God spoke to Beth.”
Other resources also are growing in popularity, Hanks said, including one by
Priscilla Shirer called “SEED” and one by a new author, Tammie Head, “Duty or
delight? Knowing Where you Stand with God.”
Hanks mentioned offering churches the opportunity to participate in multiple
simulcasts in upcoming months including You and Your Girl with Vicki Courtney;
Living Proof Live with Beth Moore; and Secret Church with David Platt.
Hanks told trustees of his excitement about the activities and synergy among
the various church resources departments “which will mean providing even
greater resources and assistance to the churches we serve.”
Tim Vineyard, vice president of technology and LifeWay’s chief information
officer, praised his team for their hard work in an aggressive year of building
new infrastructure, launching new websites, creating new mobile applications
and completing a significant acquisition.
“The acquisition of WORDsearch (WORDsearchBible.com) and QuickVerse
(QuickVerse.com) is very important,” Vineyard said. “They bring key talent and
valuable customers assets. Having been in the digital space for many years,
they are well-respected among publishing leadership and authors and bring a
wealth of content in a proprietary electronic format.”
Vineyard reported on the June 28 launch of a new LifeWay.com website. He shared
that the world-class platform will provide LifeWay with new analytics and new
capability to better meet customer needs. The new Lifeway.com includes dozens
of new features, including a fresh new interface for increased usability,
improved search and navigation for greater ease of use and improved account
management for customers.
“Our customers have responded enthusiastically to the new site,” Vineyard said.
“Building on new infrastructure, we will be more adaptive and more agile in
delivering digital solutions to the marketplace,” he said. “We want our
customers to be able to purchase and use content however and whenever they
Vineyard emphasized several other important strategic ventures, naming MyStudyBible.com’s
content access model and the technology division’s support of live online media
events such as Living Proof Live and Secret Church simulcasts.
Vineyard described continuing improvements in MyStudyBible.com, citing the
availability of more Bibles, more e-books, personalization features and unique
new purchase options. He also reported that the website’s collection of free
Bible study content is drawing a growing number of visitors.
“The new content store with both rental and purchase options offer even more
quality study resources,” Vineyard said. He also described the various
personalization features, which include bookmarks, highlights and personal
notes, which “are all available at no charge to registered users of
MyStudyBible.com,” he said.
B&H Publishing Group
Selma Wilson, vice president of B&H Publishing Group, opened her report to
the trustees with words of gratitude and presented a confident vision for the
future founded on the Bible.
“One year ago, you gave me your support (in her selection to lead the division),”
she said. “I am humbled and grateful. Thank you for your prayers; that makes
all the difference. B&H has had a great year, and we are grateful for the
favor of God in this difficult economy.”
Wilson said B&H is “firmly committed to producing Bibles and advancing our
Bible strategy. It is clearly our path to the future.” She highlighted the
current “Take a Fresh Look” campaign that promotes the accuracy and readability
of the HCSB and challenges pastors and influencers to reconsider this modern,
Wilson also told trustees about B&H’s bold moves into the digital
revolution with their Bible strategy.
“On Oct. 1, we launch The Life Essentials Study Bible, which has over 250 hours
of video content connected by QR codes,” she said. “This strategy of merging
the Bible and technology puts us firmly in the digital marketplace as we
advance God’s message around the world.”
Wilson noted other upcoming B&H Bible projects including a chronological
Bible endorsed by David Platt that accompanies the Read the Bible for Life
curriculum, mobile development for MyStudyBible.com and the Mission of God
Wilson also reported that B&H is “No. 1 in the Spanish Bible market. We are
adding new modern Spanish Bible translations and continuing valuable
partnerships with the American Bible Society and others. Our desire is to
publish God’s Word in various languages and forms including iPad, Nook, Kindle
and others. We want our innovative MyStudyBible.com platform to become known as
the Bible place in the digital world.
“Every book we publish now has an e-book published along with it, and we are
pulling in the back list as fast as we can,” Wilson said. “We now have more
than 25 branded apps in marketplace today in addition to hundreds of e-books.”
B&H won several awards this year including the 2011 ECPA Bible of the Year
award for the HCSB Study Bible and several top honors at the Expolit event in
Miami for their Spanish-language offerings.
With the upcoming release of the Courageous movie, B&H is poised to provide
complementary resources including three trade books in both English and Spanish
along with a small-group study.
The CrossBooks self-publishing arm of B&H continues to gain market
momentum, Wilson reported. With more than 900 titles already in the pipeline,
B&H plans to add an additional 500 new titles next year. Wilson said every
self-published book undergoes a theological review.
With New York Times and Association of Christian Retail bestsellers, “B&H
Women is strong and getting stronger,” Wilson said.
“What makes our 100-member team of B&H so special is that we are committed
to producing content that makes a difference and advances the Gospel of Jesus
Christ around the world,” Wilson said.
Montia Setzler, chairman of the LifeWay board of trustees and senior pastor at
Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church in Riverside, Calif., appointed a trustee task
force to study the new NIV Bible.
At issue is a resolution passed by Southern Baptist
Convention (SBC) messengers in June that calls the New International Version
(NIV) 2011 Bible an “inaccurate translation” the SBC cannot recommend. The
resolution criticized the NIV 2011 for its “gender neutral methods of
translation.” It also said messengers “respectfully request that LifeWay” not
sell the translation.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jon D. Wilke is media relations manager
for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Russ Rankin
is LifeWay’s manager of editorial services.)